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In 1975, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health instituted its Mosquito Control Program in response to a local outbreak of mosquito-borne encephalitis. Encephalitis is a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. In Ohio, there are three prevalent mosquito-borne viruses that cause encephalitis. LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC) virus is transmitted between small woodland animals and mosquitoes. St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) are transmitted between several species of mosquitoes and wild birds. Humans are at risk of acquiring encephalitis if bitten by a female mosquito that is infected with either virus. LAC is usually an infection in young children between the ages of one and fourteen. SLE and the WNV are a more serious concern for the elderly.
Currently, outbreaks of Zika virus are occurring in many countries. No locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers. The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread Dengue and Chikungunya viruses.
Early symptoms of mosquito-borne disease may include nausea, fever, vomiting, and/or headache. These symptoms usually develop in approximately two weeks. More serious cases include drowsiness, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, and convulsions (especially in infants). Diagnosis of encephalitis can only be made through laboratory testing. Consult your physician if any or all of these symptoms occur, especially during the peak months of virus transmission, which are June through October.
Follow manufacturer directions for the application of insect repellents. All of the EPA-registered active ingredients have demonstrated repellency, however some provide more longer lasting protection than others. Additional research reviewed by CDC suggests that repellents containing DEET or picaridin typically provide longer-lasting protection than the other products. Oil of lemon eucalyptus provides longer lasting protection than other plant-based repellents. Permethrin is another long-lasting repellent that is intended for application to clothing and gear, but not directly to skin. In general, the more active ingredient (higher concentration) a repellent contains, the longer time it protects against mosquito bites.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of mosquito-borne encephalitis is important to a patient’s recovery. If you feel that you may have been exposed to the encephalitis virus, consult a physician immediately.